Luc Leestemaker (1957-2012)

Luc Leestemaker (1957–2012), a Dutch-American painter with a timeless poetic style influenced by Abstract Expressionism.

Born in Hilversum, Netherlands, Leestemaker’s family boasted several accomplished academic painters. A naturally rebellious youth, Leestemaker spent many years resisting the path of a painter. In his native Holland, he at various times, worked as a writer, editor, social worker, arts administrator, and business consultant. But at age 33, a move to the United States fundamentally shifted something in Leestemaker that allowed him to finally recognize and fully embrace his true calling to paint.

Married to an actress during his first few years in the States, Leestemaker found himself dividing his time between New York City and Los Angeles. Response from art collectors in both cities to his artistic talent came swiftly, particularly from the glitterati. Some early exhibitions and group shows included Twentieth Century Fox Studios, Barnsdall Art Park; Southern California Gas Company; Miramax Films, New York; 48 Market Street Gallery, Venice; and BBDO Advertising LA, among many others.

By 1997, divorce led him to an acute period of existentialism, which led to a decision to permanently relocate to Los Angeles. His move to the perpetually sunny West Coast brought an intense optimism to Leestemaker’s life, which was something he never quite experienced in his homeland. Thus, he found himself approaching the canvas with a renewed vigor. Raw pigments and cement started entering the canvas, creating a more sculptural approach to the work.

It was through painting that Leestemaker discovered his ability to access something deep within himself, where, as he once put it, “the mind does not directly need to be involved to make decisions…I mean it’s truly an intuitive process that gets me to a place where the can-vas starts talking to me, telling me what it needs to create some sort of balance.”

His stylistic journey would take him from early inspiration by the CoBrA movement; through densely abstract expressionist art compositions; to the later “Inner Landscape” and “Transfigurations” series, which are situated on the borderline of realism and abstraction and inspired both by Mark Rothko and 18th-Century Dutch and English landscape painters (no-tably Salomen van Ruysdael and John Constable). For a solid decade, Leestemaker’s works assumed the form of an expansive empty land-, sea- or skyscapes.

This newfound optimism helped Leestemaker through some of his most trying experiences. When he suffered a detached retina that almost caused him permanent vision loss, he was required to keep his head facing down during the recovery period. A tall Dutchman who generally used his height to full advantage with his very physical approach to large canvases, he instead began painting seated at a table on very small canvases (some less than a foot) with his palette knife. What became of those altered painting sessions were the abstract landscapes, which he arranged into complementary sets of six or more pieces.

Once his recovery was complete, he found demand to be great for this new style of work, leading him to create larger versions of what became his signature atmospheric landscapes.

During his lifetime, Leestemaker was fortunate to enjoy recognition among many galleries, museums, and esteemed collectors. Museum exhibits included a retrospective at the Bakers-field Art Museum, California, and West Valley Art Museum, Phoenix. Numerous solo Exhi-bitions were held at galleries in Boston, MA; Zurich, Switzerland; Santa Monica, CA; Santa Fe, NM, Palm Desert, CA; Palm Beach, FL, and Atlanta, GA.

Always interested in how art could reach an audience beyond the traditional walls, Leeste-maker collaborated with a number of developers, architects, designers and movie studios to successfully integrate his paintings into public spaces and movie sets including “Spiderman,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Fracture,” and “Shopgirl.” Collections and projects also included Bel-lagio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV; Four Seasons Hotel, Bahamas; Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA; Miyako Hotel, Tokyo, Japan; McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Los Angeles, CA; Toyota USA Headquarters, Torrance, CA; Genzyme Headquarters, Boston, MA.

Leestemaker believed that life would yield the most profound rewards only when we choose to confront, even embrace, what we most fear in our lives. Over the years, he would devote many unpaid hours to artists and non-artists alike, lecturing and giving workshops on the creative process, the artist’s identity, and the symbiosis between artist and society. To this end, Leestemaker published a memoir-like book, “The Intentional Artist: Stories From My Life,” in 2010.

Several other books and catalogues, including the monograph “Luc Leestemaker: Paintings” (2004), have documented Leestemaker’s oeuvre, as has the widely-screened film “Swimming Through The Clouds: A Portrait of the Artist” (2008), directed by Terence Gross and Ruy Carpenter.

In March 2012, Leestemaker was selected as a Star of Design in the art category by the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, CA. In his acceptance speech at this awards ceremony, Leestemaker remarked that the award was “a coming home in a way.” After all, just eighteen years before he was a starving artist in a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood thinking, “How am I going to make it as an artist?”

In the last several years of his life, Leestemaker achieved multiple artistic breakthroughs re-sulting in one new series of paintings after another, such as Voyager, Kyoto, and Haiku. His cancer diagnosis in 2010 only made him more determined to express himself through paint, resulting in some of the most vibrant and dynamic works of his entire career. On May 18, 2012, Leestemaker passed away peacefully on his 55th birthday. As well as being a part of major corporate and private collections, Leestemaker’s work continues to be exhibited in museums, galleries, and various public spaces widely throughout North America and Europe. In 2014, Luc’s work debuted in China for exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing (MoCA Beijing).

Luc Leestemaker